After the season opener for the Callaway Investments Sportsman Street Stocks was cut short due to server issues, the division would run their first full event this past Tuesday at the USA International Speedway for a 75-lap feature event.
James Linkiewicz found himself at the top of the speed charts after Time Trials for his 6th career SARA pole, but was then inverted back to 10th as the top ten cars advanced into the Qualifying Dash. The invert brought Travis Warling and Evan Sorensen up to the front row for the Dash, and while Warling was able to hang onto the lead for a few laps, it was Tommy Burns that eventually made his way to the top spot for the Dash victory to gain some extra bonus points towards the championship.
In the feature event, Warling led the field back to the green flag, but after a few short laps, he would once again surrender the lead as Brian Tedeschi moved up into the top spot on lap 6. Just a few laps later the first caution flew on lap 9 as a couple cars up in the top ten got together, sending James Linkiewicz’s car into a barrel roll down the backstretch as he tumbled eight times before coming to a stop. With the Street Stock division allowing one fast reset each race, Linkiewicz would be able to recover from the flip, and would become a factor later in the event once again.
Tedeschi continued to lead through the lap 9 and lap 19 cautions, as Ty Spearman and Derek Robinson battled behind him. Shortly after the restart on lap 24, Spearman was the first car to make his move and took his turn out front on lap 29. During the course of the next 31-lap green flag run, Spearman began to stretch his lead while Robinson and Tedeschi continued the battle for podium spots, as Bill Martin and Tom Wetmore were closing in to crash the party.
When the next caution flew on lap 55, it set up a few restarts within the final 20 laps that set the stage for a couple of battles up front. Spearman continued to show the way and was forced to hold off Martin, Burns and others in the late stages however, but it also allowed Linkiewicz to work his way back up through the field after recovering from his incident earlier in the race.
A late caution led to a lap 68 restart where Spearman brought the field around to the green flag, but on the exit of turn two his car slid up wide and opened up the door for Linkiewicz to get the run and a nose under him from the third position. By the time they came around for the next lap, the caution flew once again but it was Linkiewicz that had taken over the lead on lap 69.
The field had one more shot at it when the green came back out for a three-lap dash to the finish, where Linkiewicz was able to jump out front and held off the field as he brought the field back to the checkered and yellow flags to take the win. Linkiewicz’s victory was his 7th career SARA win, leading just the final 8 laps of the race.
Behind Linkiewicz, Burns ended finishing in the runner-up position after he elected to start at the rear of the field and made steady progress all race to be a contender at the end. Spearman dropped back to a 3rd place finish after leading 39 laps on the night, but without a couple of the late cautions he could have ended up in victory lane. Tedeschi hung around inside the top five all race long after he gave up the lead and was able to finish in 4th. Tom Wetmore rounded out the top five after he started deep in the field and worked his way forward to finish in 5th.
Matt Rolfe ran up-and-down within the top ten and worked his way back up in the late laps to take a 6th place finish. Martin dropped back to finish 7th after he was solidly inside the top five during some of the late restarts before some contact forced him to lose a couple positions. Kevin J Myers spent some time inside the top five in the early stages of the race before getting shuffled back as he would finish in 8th. Clay Snider spent most of the second half of the race on the outside of the top ten, looking in, before gaining spots on the late restarts to take 9th. Tim Bills missed the grid for the start of the race, and then spent the rest of it making up ground as he worked his way forward and would finish out the top ten in 10th.
After the first official event of the season, James Linkiewicz leaves Lakeland with the lead in the standings by just 3 points, as the division will head to Phoenix next Tuesday night.